MP tells Wisbech resident campaigning to get Constantine House finished ‘thank you for your email but why have you sent it to me? I do not run the council.’

Constantine house Wisbech. Picture: Steve Williams.

Constantine house Wisbech. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

A Wisbech man who complained to MP Steve Barclay about the still unfinished refurbishment of Constantine House got the reply; “Thank you for your email but why have you sent it to me? I do not run the council.”

Constantine house Wisbech. Picture: Steve Williams.

Constantine house Wisbech. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

David Prestidge has published the email which also quotes the MP as saying that “I have also called repeatedly for more enforcement not less- in fact I first identified the s215 enforcement option over two years ago in a five page memo to FDC dated May 2013 before which they had never used this option.”

The MP for NE Cambs added: “It is the council to decide whether to serve enforcement on this owner and the many other owners of derelict buildings

“If they do not do so I have no power to compel them to act.”

Mr Barclay told Mr Prestidge: “I have copied your email to the leader of the council who is the appropriate person to respond. It is not within the MP’s control”.

Constantine house, Wisbech. Picture: Steve Williams.

Constantine house, Wisbech. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

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Mr Prestidge said after receiving the email: “My gut feeling is that we are climbing a steep hill, and dragging at least two very heavy weights behind us.”

He revealed how he had sent the MP a list of “facts and complaints about how Wisbech people have been let down by councillors over the Constantine House shambles.

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“I included a quote from one of our local leaders who said that he thought the building was ‘looking so much better now.’

“Some of us have been trying hard to get things moving on this since 2012. We have done research, visited other local authorities to see how they handle things, and spoken to FDC about what we have found. Result? A long delayed and begrudging use of Section 215 legislation, which has been in statute for years and years.

“Where are we now? The owner has stopped paying the workmen, the builders have quit, the scaffolding has been taken down, and the interior is entirely open to the elements.”

Constantine House in Nene Quay - the former premises of the Belfast - was damaged by fire back in 2010, and since then Fenland District Council has been trying to get the property reinstated.

In November 2013, councillors agreed to issue an order under Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act calling on owners Chrysostomos Elias Chrysostomou and Niki Elia Chrysostomou to start work by January 1, 2014.

The decision to issue the order came just two weeks after Mr Barclay called on the authority to “toughen up and bring in the courts” as they tackled the problem of dilapidated buildings in the district. He listed Constantine House, Cooks the Butchers and the Phoenix Hotel in Wisbech as some of the main culprits.

Work did eventually start on Constantine House, set out in a Section 215 order and completion was originally due for March but the owner was granted an extension and it should have been completed by the end of June.

However restoration work has ground to a halt. .

A council spokesman said 75 per cent of work had been completed before it halted in May.

Councillor David Oliver, portfolio holder responsible for conservation, said: “The council is anxious to ensure that the building is watertight and pigeon nesting prevented to stop any future damage.

“We continue to make every effort to force the owner to comply fully with the Section 215 Notice, and are now considering all the options available to us to get the necessary works completed, including potential legal action.”

Mr Barclay believes the council is ignoring a tailor made solution to force owners to act.

He said last year that the courts can order repairs and if landlords refuse they can be fined up to £1,000 a day.

“A clear message is needed for landlords of derelict buildings who damage our district,” he said.

“Enforcement action should be pursued through the courts under section 215 Notices. “We should not be a soft touch.”

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